The EU "acknowledges" Georgia's European choice, "welcomes" its reform efforts and "stresses utmost importance" of parliamentary and presidential elections and will "closely monitor" developments in lead up to those elections, EU foreign ministers said on February 27.
South Caucasus was one of the topics on the agenda of a meeting of foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries in Brussels on Monday. In a statement on South Caucasus after the meeting the foreign ministers welcomed "the significant progress" made in frames of the Eastern Partnership to strengthen the EU's ties with the three countries of the region - Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
"The pace of reforms will determine the intensity of the cooperation, and partners most engaged in reforms will benefit more from their relationship with the European Union," the statement said.
On Georgia, the EU foreign ministers welcomed "the progress" made in the negotiations on the Association Agreement and the launch of talks on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).
"The EU emphasises that Georgia should continue to advance sectoral reform and regulatory approximation in trade and trade-related areas, building on the achievements of the preparatory process for the DCFTA and that the EU stands ready to provide continued support in this regard based on jointly identified needs of Georgia," the EU foreign ministers said.
The EU reiterated its readiness "to take gradual steps, including establishing a two-phased Visa Action Plan, towards a visa-free regime in a secure and well managed environment in due course."
"Under these conditions, the EU is committed to the shared objective of visa free travel," the EU foreign ministers said in the statement.
It also said that EU "acknowledges the European aspirations and European choice of Georgia and its commitment to build deep and sustainable democracy. The EU welcomes Georgia's efforts in modernizing and reforming its society and fighting corruption."
"The EU stresses the utmost importance of ensuring that the Parliamentary elections in 2012 and the Presidential elections in 2013 meet internationally recognized democratic standards and will closely monitor developments in Georgia leading up to the elections."
"The EU stresses the need for consolidating democracy in Georgia, including strengthening democratic institutions, allowing for genuine political pluralism and freedom of assembly, freedom and equal access to media as well as further strengthening of the independence of judiciary," the statement reads.